Release date: March 5th, decease 2012
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 101 minutes
Director: George Clooney
Writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Cast: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood
Regardless of any man-crush my better half claims I have on him – ahem – Ryan Gosling is arguably the hottest property in Hollywood at the moment and on top of being a very talented actor he also seems on the whole to pick interesting films to appear in. Last year he played leading roles in my film of the year, Drive, and another of my top ten Blue Valentine.
He supplemented that with a relatively funny turn in the mostly less-than-amazing Crazy Stupid Love and this film. The very thought of Gosling teaming up with George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti in a political thriller was pretty exciting.
Adding to that the fact that the film is directed by Clooney, whose last political film was the fabulous Goodnight and Good Luck and the title, a foreboding of intrigue and betrayal, I was salivating at the thought of this movie.
In The Ides of March Gosling plays Stephen, an idealistic young protegé and deputy to Paul (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is managing Governor Mike Morris’ (George Clooney) run at the Democratic Presidential nomination. There are only two men left in the race and when Stephen takes a secret meeting with the opponent’s campaign manager (Giamatti) and things begin to unravel for him professionally – especially after a reporter (Marissa Tomei) threatens to break the story of the meeting.
This coincides with Stephen becoming involved with an intern in the campaign office, Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), and various hitherto unknown facts about their relationship are unearthed. Although it is very clear where the characters shift is going to occur pretty early in the film , I will try not to give away too much plot in this review as there is a revelation or two that’s it would certainly be better not to know. However, I can reveal that I was generally a little disappointed by the film.
This film is ultimately about betrayal and as such, in the world of politics, things are always grey. This movie certainly maintains this idea, with no character entirely innocent and no character entirely culpable – though certain characters are completely to blame for certain events. This grey quality is very interesting in looking at the moral ambiguity of these situations but in this case it forces the audience into a place where none of the characters are very likable – or even vaguely likable – and as such this makes it very hard to empathise with them when things go right or wrong. Ultimately, as an audience member, you don’t really care what happens you are more intrigued to find out how things end.
What also didn’t help with this, in my opinion, is that whilst it’s great to have your moral stance in varying shades of grey, the dramatic pitch of the film felt very similar to this and as such there was no roller-coaster ride which you kind of expect from a political thriller with so much at stake. There is a revelation which essentially questions what Stephen believes in and is the inciting incident for everything which will happen afterwards and as you have little empathy for him and because the drama has not built and dipped as you might expect, this doesn’t have any resonance as an audience member.
None of this is helped by the fact that Ryan Gosling leading the show doesn’t have one of his better days at the office and that the script is very bland. In a post-West Wing – and Aaron Sorkin – world, conversations like some of those had here could really pop and zing but they just fall flat. The scene in which Stephen first speaks to and (I assume they were intending) flirts with Molly is excruciating and you can’t help but imagine one of countless similar scenes with Bradley Whitford and Mary-Louise Parker from The West Wing which were perfect.
I’ve heard people criticise the out-of-date politics of the film but I don’t think that this really makes a great deal of difference; aside from a couple of scenes with Giamatti and Hoffman, there is little to the drama and even then, the relationships are so underdeveloped that you struggle to really find it.
There are good things, the pacing is fine although might have benefited from a few more minutes, and the cinematography is slick. There are some truly lovely shots using light and darkness to a great effect – I very much enjoyed the framing of a conversation in silhouette against a giant America flag. The supporting cast are all pretty good, I’ll watch Giamatti and Hoffman in anything, and, as I stated earlier, you are intrigued to see how things pan out. The problem with the film maybe summed up as the pitch being great, but the presentation lacking. And I’m still left waiting for that crushing moment in the Forum.
Ben has had a keen love of moving images since his childhood but after leaving school he fell truly in love with films. His passion manifests itself in his consumption of movies (watching films from all around the globe and from any period of the medium’s history with equal gusto), the enjoyment he derives from reading, talking and writing about cinema and being behind the camera himself having completed his first co-directed short film in mid-2011.
His favourite films include things as diverse as The Third Man, In The Mood For Love, Badlands, 3 Iron, Casablanca, Ran and Grizzly Man to name but a few.